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Senior civil service: "The reform does not change what makes up the DNA of the prefecture" (Christophe Mirmand, ACPHFMI)

AEF info


Published on September 21, 2023 at 12:19

Less than four months before the last integration campaign, almost all the members of the prefectural body put into extinction have already opted for the new body of state administrators. After a year of discussion with the administration, Christophe Mirmand, president of the ACPHFMI, prefect of the Paca region, the southern defense and security zone and Bouches-du-Rhône, returns to the foundations of the reform of the senior civil service, its main changments for the prefecture and its points of attention for the employment and professional career of prefects. He also discusses more broadly the transformations still necessary in terms of feminization and management, to guarantee the attractiveness of the function among younger generations.

AEF info: Part of the reform of the senior civil service is coming to an end, with the latest campaign for integration into the new body of state administrators scheduled for December 2023. What are the main consequences for the prefecture?

Christophe Mirmand: The reform does not substantially modify what makes up the DNA of the prefectural body, in particular its logic of professionalization and sector which is built by being assigned to varied positions, such as those of cabinet director, secretary general, district sub-prefect, or Sgar. The decree on employment regulations provides, like what was included in the decree of March 14, 1964 on the status of sub-prefects, the fact that two thirds of the prefects must be appointed from among senior civil servants who have served at least five years in their professional career in the territory, including three years as sub-prefect. This is an element which guarantees this professionalization to which the members of the association are naturally attached, but more broadly all the senior civil servants who are assigned to the prefectural administration.

The second important element is the fact that this reform, in a certain way, consolidates what has always been previously in the culture but also in the identity of the prefectural body, that is to say its extremely diverse recruitment. Interministerial first, since many sub-prefects or prefects come from other bodies of the senior civil service of the State. They are also administrative and judicial magistrates, or even former military personnel required to complete a second career in the prefectural administration.

There are also prefects or sub-prefects from other professional backgrounds, notably from the private sector, local authorities or other aspects of the public service. This has always existed in the methods of appointment and in the professional career paths that were organized in the past. This is one of the founding principles of the reform which, in a certain way, had already been prefigured for the prefectural body. There is no real major change brought about by this reform of the senior civil service in terms of diversification of the body. These changes are not likely to call into question his identity.


AEF info: How do you perceive the evolution of this reform over time and its resulting changes for the prefecture?

Christophe Mirmand: The important thing is to see if the reform will continue to attract potential people to decentralized state services. The other question is whether we will truly be able to guarantee that sub-prefects who have had an exemplary career path and occupied several positions, who have in a certain way been the linchpins of the territorial administration, can access the less as much as in the past to positions appointed by the Council of Ministers and in particular to prefect positions in order to recognize their professionalization and their commitment to the service of the State.

We are now enrolled in professional paths which are intended to be even more interministerial. Previously, the prefectural body, in its outreach strategy, already projected itself very regularly within other administrations, other ministries and towards local authorities. The reform will amplify this development. But since there is no longer a body in the statutory sense of the term and the civil servants concerned will be intended to belong to the body of State administrators, it is necessary to ensure that career development over time can take into account of this necessary sequence of successive professional experiences in a logic of variety of career paths. The main thing is that we are in a construction by the manager of these courses. The Diese has a very important role to play.

This logic will necessarily enrich professional careers and will also provide a response to what can sometimes be perceived as usury, due to the intensity of prefectural functions. The construction of career paths is the most ambitious point in this reform, and it is on this that its success will actually be measured. Nothing would be worse than being in a waiting situation for senior civil servants who would not be offered new perspectives. This would demonetize the principle of fluidity of pathways which is sought by the reform. These changes must be able to be constructed and not suffered.


AEF info: According to the latest figures communicated by the Prime Minister, 85% of prefects and 95% of sub-prefects have already joined the new body of state administrators. (read on AEF info). It is the members of the bodies put into extinction who most quickly and effectively used their right of option (read on AEF info). How do you explain it ? 

Christophe Mirmand: We can first speak of a form of pragmatism since the conditions in which the compensation schemes will evolve will be more favorable in the body of State administrators as opposed to the bodies put into extinction. There is also a form of loyalty to the institution which perhaps explains the fact that a large number of senior civil servants, prefects or sub-prefects, have made this choice.

The work done by the ACPHFMI was that of a discussion and consultation with the general secretariat of the Ministry of the Interior and with the cabinets to make it possible to include in the decree establishing employment status the provisions guaranteeing the professionalization. I believe that the trust which marked this year of discussions with the Minister of the Interior, the Ministry of the Civil Service, the Prime Minister's office, also undoubtedly played a role in the way in which the reform was approached. This generally confident and constructive climate undoubtedly made it possible to achieve the result you mention.

Furthermore, the principles of reform are not antagonistic to the culture of the body. In a way, the reform expands principles that we had already implemented and practiced in the prefectural body before it intervened.


AEF info: Do you consider that the authority of the Minister of the Interior has something to do with it? Did the Ministry work in this direction to get the prefects to support the reform or were they already committed to its cause?

Christophe Mirmand: The Minister of the Interior was attentive to the conditions in which this reform was prepared and discussed. He was attentive through his office, also through the general secretariat of the ministry, to the wishes, expectations and perhaps sometimes to the concerns which could be relayed by the association.

It is true that the symbolic character of the prefectural body as it previously existed was a sensitive element. There is undoubtedly a form of nostalgia for some, but it is important to bring this feeling to its proper extent by emphasizing that the creation of the body as such, in the statutory sense of the term, is relatively recent. This dates from the immediate post-war period, while the prefectural administration and the employment of prefect or sub-prefect date back to the consulate, that is to say more than two centuries ago. The prefectural profession, the role of the prefect in the territories, the influence embodied by this function, its responsibility and its legitimacy are not called into question by the reform. This logic of professionalization is very important, because this profession is learned by being alongside an elder who introduces you both to its uses but also to its complexity and difficulty. This aspect is also not called into question by the reform.

AEF info: The last movement of prefects, which included some original profiles, did not, in your opinion, constitute a "revolution" in terms of administrative diversification or openness towards civil society (read on AEF info). Do you think the reform will lead to more significant changes over time? Do you plan to take stock?

Christophe Mirmand: It is first a question of ensuring that, over time, the appointments decided by the President of the Republic, on the proposal of the Minister of the Interior, will maintain this principle of professionalization and that the prefects appointed will already be by their previous experience, for the majority of them, experts in territorial administration, whatever the administrative framework of this experience. They will know what a local elected official is, how to work with communities and maintain relationships with different state services.

The second important element is to follow over time the evolution of these new prefects arriving from other professional backgrounds and the way in which their professional careers will unfold. This will obviously lead us collectively to ensure that the support provided to them to take up their position meets expectations and allows them, for the first few months in any case, to rely on this support.

There is no distrust or criticism in what I am saying, it is simply the difficulty that anyone can face when discovering a new professional horizon, with their own culture.

AEF info: In addition to this issue of diversification of profiles, the question of the difficult feminization of the prefectural body is clearly raised (read on AEF info). A law adopted definitively in July 2023 requires 50% of first-time appointments of women to senior management and management positions (read on AEF info). Does this objective seem achievable for the prefecture?

The Sauvadet law of 2012 previously provided for this diversification on 40% of first appointments. Despite everything, we are not in a situation of parity. We must undoubtedly take into account the situation from which we come. The feminization of the prefectural body has been gradual and dates back to the 1980s. Today we have a significant number of regional prefects and department prefects.

But I believe that there is perhaps a barrier due to the greater difficulty in reconciling family life with the demands of these professions. Family responsibilities are more often assumed by women than by men and in a certain way, I think that there is a hesitation on the part of a certain number of female senior civil servants to assume responsibilities which require of them total availability and administrative nomadism which does not always take these constraints into account. It is difficult to establish to what extent this more difficult conciliation can be a barrier to access to certain responsibilities. This observation concerns the senior civil service generally and including in the central administration, even if I tend to think that this plays a stronger role for prefectural jobs.

This limit should be better taken into account by the manager, particularly concerning the appointment dates, the fact of better taking into account the constraints of children in school to try to avoid making transfers during the school year for example. This may also encourage us to think about the question of working hours, which are often extendable. I find that it is natural and necessary for the management of jobs in the prefectural administration to be concerned with this question of the attractiveness of the profession on the one hand and therefore obviously its feminization.

AEF info: Recent cases of accusations of sexism and sexual harassment involving prefects raise questions about prevention in this area. Are prefects sufficiently aware of issues of harassment at work?

Christophe Mirmand: Sexism and sexual harassment, the latter obviously being legally more serious, are reprehensible and are punishable when they are revealed, either by internal administrative investigations, or, where applicable, by the filing of a complaint by the person who considers themselves the subject of the complaint. The prefectural administration must of course be exemplary because the prefect or sub-prefect embodies the State, represents it and personifies it. This is why the Ministry of the Interior, the manager of the body and the secretary general of the ministry are extremely attentive to this type of situation to be able to avoid abnormal behavior, or even if necessary to sanction faults when they are proven. 

It is also true that these are facts which are today increasingly sanctioned, and rightly so. The evolution of society today makes it necessary to be extremely attentive to behaviors that no longer have their place in the prefectural body, in the prefectural administration, and more broadly in the professional space. Today, the administration no longer supports and no longer admits pathological managerial behavior.

AEF info: What issue do you identify on this subject?

Christophe Mirmand: The question of management is undoubtedly one of the major challenges for our profession. It is a profession of authority, which involves urgency in its daily life, which can generate professional stress and can sometimes make both those who exercise authority and their collaborators, to toxic forms of management. This requires training civil servants from the National Institute of Public Service to continuing training in administrations, and that we constantly remind ourselves of this requirement for balanced management.

This also implies that we have rapid detection of such behavior. It is in particular the role of the Csate to establish responsibilities and, if necessary, to draw all the consequences. This is a major concern in the management services of the ministry and among the prefects.

AEF info: How does the ACPHFMI contribute to these changes within the body? What is his roadmap for the coming months?

Christophe Mirmand: The association did not put itself in a position of refusal or criticism of the reform, but in a desire to support its preparation by being a force for proposals and to draw the attention of the State to the points which seemed important to us to preserve in the decree establishing employment status. Then comes the pedagogy of reform towards members of the association and colleagues interested in its contributions.

A third dimension recently discussed at the association's board of directors concerns individualized support. We are a professional association and in our relationship with the administration, we also aim to support colleagues who wish to do so in their relationship with their manager. This can be to evoke an individual situation in the course, or in relation to an act accused of a senior civil servant, in a desire to advise, support, accompany a colleague who expresses the request, with an approach different from that of a union. It is a mission which is called to be increasingly developed, as well as that of proposal, in relations with the administration.

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